Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has admitted that he didn't want to leave France to join the Gunners - but says now that he's glad he took the gamble.
Arsene Wenger snapped up the 23-year-old from Stade Lavallois as a youngster, and after three separate loan spells has returned to the Emirates Stadium and is now a fixture in the first team. Having returned from a spell with Charlton earlier this season, he recently penned a new deal to keep him in north London until 2019.
However it could have been very different if Coquelin opted against leaving France at such a young age, which he says came close to happening.
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He told Ouest France: “When you’re young and you go abroad, you take a risk. Especially when you come to Arsenal. At first I did not want to go. I came for a week in training, coaching I saw guys ready to slug it out.
“But in life you have to take risks. I’ve always had confidence in me. My only regret was not being able to show what I could do. This nearly happened. Then I get the chance. If tomorrow I have to go, I would not regret anything.”
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Arsenal are in superb form and currently sit just one point adrift of second-placed Manchester City in the Premier League, while they have an FA Cup semi-final showdown against Reading on the horizon. Arsene Wenger's team have claimed 12 wins in their last 14 games, and will hope to continue their fine form when they take on Monaco in the Champions League tonight.
Arsenal fell to a 3-1 defeat against the Ligue 1 side last month in their last 16 tie and face an uphill battle to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010. Wenger is hopeful his team can become the first in Champions League to overcome such a deficit to progress.
"The statistics are against us, we are conscious of that," said the Arsenal boss. 'We have to give absolutely everything to make the stats lie. That's our desire. We believe we can do it and I'm confident we will. If we didn't believe we wouldn't be here. Football is not predictable.
"We totally missed the first leg, which was surprising. We did not play well. Sometimes in life if you miss a chance, you do not have a second chance, but we do, so we will play it fully."
Arsenal's recent shift in approach to the transfer market has meant the arrival of some big name stars in recent years, but it is the return of Coquelin which has been key to their good form this term.
The Gunners have been in desperate need to a player who simply sits in midfield and helps protect the defence. For too long the north London club have been criticised for being a soft touch, especially in the big games. Coquelin was the man of the match in Arsenal's FA Cup win over Manchester United which tells you all you need to know about how important he really is.
Do you think that Coquelin has been Arsenal's best player this season?
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